May is international doula month and a lot of Fernie residents may not be aware that there are three practising doulas right here in town.
The services offered by a doula can vary greatly depending on the wants and needs of the mother, but the doula’s most important role is to provide continuous support and reassurance for the family they are working with.
Rachel Cline’s journey to be a doula began after experiencing what she felt was an unnecessary and traumatic cesarean section with her first child. It was after becoming pregnant with her second child, and being told once more she would need a c-section, that Rachel realized many women are told they need cesareans when they don’t need or want them.
As a doula, she hoped to support women and do everything she could to make sure they had the birth they wanted.
“I’ve got my own personal views about what I think is the right birth for me, but I don’t impose that on anybody else,” explained Rachel. “I’m very, very research based so any information I give to a family is to help them make their own minds up about what they want. The research shows that it doesn’t matter if a woman has an elected c-section or a home birth, or any of the options in between, it’s all about her perception and that’s what decides if she sees it as a positive or negative birth.”
Over the last six years Rachel has worked with roughly 50 families. She begins works with an expectant mom and partner as early as they wish, even pre-conception, but Rachel has been employed as late as 41 weeks gestation. Throughout the pregnancy she gives support in person and through email and phone calls, offers personalised prenatal classes, and is there for the entire birth, no matter how long it takes.
“It’s not a medical role, and that’s what’s really key, I don’t do any medical tasks. It’s purely emotional and practical support, so where you’re learning and training really comes with the women you work with,” said Rachel. “The more women you work with, the more experiences you have with different births, because there’s lots of things that can go wrong, things that can go right, that’s where it’s kind of on the ground learning where you really become established.”
Rachel worked as a facilitator on a doula preparation course in the UK for the last four years and is also a La Leche League trained breastfeeding counsellor and BabyCalm and ToddlerCalm teacher. She relocated to Fernie last fall with her husband and three children and is happy to be able to continue her work as a doula here.
“I’ve been a physiotherapist for 13 years and I enjoy it, but I’ve never felt the passion like I do about my doula work,” Rachel remarked. “It’s about supporting women to have the best possible birth for them. It’s seeing women, especially women who have had a traumatic first birth, and letting them know what birth can be, and that it doesn’t have to be scary. It’s not a day to get through, it should be a day that’s remembered and honoured.”